Another student satisfaction website launches

A new Ofsted website measuring student satisfaction has entered the market, prompting concerns of a clash with the Skills Funding Agency’s £30m FE Choices site.

Learner View, which went live in time for Ofsted’s 2012/13 inspections, draws together the opinions of students about their courses and comes up with provider ratings.

Students are faced with statements such as ‘my course/programme meets my needs’ and ‘I receive the support I need to help me progress’. It then offers responses ranging from ‘strongly agree’ to ‘strongly disagree’.

The public will be able to see the results once there has been “sufficient” response.

The agency’s FE Choices, formerly Developing Framework for Excellence, also produces provider ratings, but based on the findings of a research company that carries out its own interviews.

But it is understood that at last week’s Association of Colleges’ conference on Ofsted inspections questions were asked about the similarities of the two sites.

Learner View represents an opportunity for the learner voice to become properly embedded into inspection processes”

However, an Ofsted spokesperson pointed to a number of differences between it and FE Choices. “Our website is targeted at inspections – that’s the major difference. We’ve both got different ends” she said.

“FE Choices is more about pitting provider against provider and giving prospective students information that will help them to make a decision about where they want to go.

“Learner View is to do with students already enrolled and getting their views and inputting them into what we do.”

Delegates at the conference heard how Learner View questionnaires were open all year round, but providers would be requested to tell learners about the site by the end of the second day of inspection.

They also heard how the results would feed into annual risk assessments, alongside other evidence, to help decide which providers were inspected and when.

Plus, inspectors could view and analyse the latest results during the inspection.

Toni Pearce, National Union of Students vice president with responsibility for FE, welcomed Learner View.

“We are pleased that Ofsted has recognised the need to review its methods for consulting learners,” she said.

“Learner View represents an opportunity for the learner voice to become properly embedded into inspection processes, which is particularly important as we move towards more ‘light touch’ inspections, and where continuous audit of provision will be crucial in ensuring that learners get a fair deal.

“It is particularly welcome that it will be open continuously to contributions from learners, whether or not their college or learning provider is being inspected and whatever age they happen to be, and that live view data will be made available.

“These are important steps towards protecting all learners against poor provision.”

Learner View is due to be launched officially later this month.